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How a young Ipswich girl got to meet her hero

Sophia Preston with her hero, BMX champion Caroline Buchanan. Photo: Talitha Rice.

When Silkstone’s Sophia Preston wrote to Ipswich Libraries to donate two copies of a book she thought other children may enjoy, she could not have guessed it would end with a special meeting with her hero, world champion BMX rider Caroline Buchanan.

Sophia, 9, is herself a BMX rider and said she decided to donate copies of the book so other children could read its positive message.

In a handwritten note to Ipswich Libraries she wrote:

“A famous BMX rider named Caroline Buchanan has written a book which I think is really cool. It is called Dress Up Day. Caroline is an Australian and world champion BMX rider.

“This book is about being brave and being proud to be yourself. I think this would be a great book for young girls aged between five and nine.”

On receiving Sophia’s letter, staff at Ipswich Libraries not only added the book to the collection but also reached out to Buchanan about visiting for a special event.

“It’s a small world. I was sitting on the other side of the world in America and I pulled up my email and saw a scanned copy of the actual letter Sophia wrote to the library,” Buchanan said.

“At the time I didn’t recognise the name but I jumped on Google and typed in Sophia Ipswich and saw she was a young BMX rider, and thought that was really cool.

“I got back to the organisers and said I would love to do an event.”

Sophia Preston’s letter to the library manager.

On the weekend, Buchanan shared her story at Ipswich Central Library and caught up with Sophia.

As it turns out, the two have plenty in common. By sheer coincidence, Sophia’s current school teacher, Stephanie Lovat at Sacred Heart Booval, also taught Caroline Buchanan when she was growing up in Canberra.

Just like Buchanan, Sophia is quickly making a name for herself in the world of competitive BMX riding, with three consecutive national titles under her belt so far.

The book that sparked Buchanan’s visit is the first in a four-part series aimed at encouraging young girls to follow their dreams.

The first in the series – titled Dress Up Day –  is about a young girl who struggles with whether to attend her school’s dress up day as a BMX rider.

Caroline Buchanan with a group of local girls at Ipswich Central Library.

“Initially I tried to find a book for my niece. She is four, she’s just gotten on a bike and is learning to ride and I started looking for some books,” Buchanan said.

“They were all fairy princesses. I was looking for something to do with BMX or bikes, any kind of current action sport or any sort of Olympic athlete, something with real characters.”

Buchanan, 28, has dedicated much of her career to encouraging young riders, including through scholarships for 14 and 15 year olds.

“I help girls go from Australia to international riding, to the world championships,” she said.

“It’s really that age group where you are on the cusp of finishing school, deciding whether you want to go down career opportunities or be a professional rider.

“Who knows, in a few years time Sophia might be eligible for one of those scholarships.

“It would be a pretty incredible story for Sophia to not only have the same teacher but also walk in the same footsteps and be a world champion.

“I believe in her, I believe she can be a world champion one day.”

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